I decided to tackle writing "program"/interpretative music following details of an excellent novel I recently finished (Roma, by Steven Saylor) as a English project, and it turned out to be one of the boldest and longest pieces I have written to date. The story follows a Roman family from the dawn of the city itself all the way to the end of the Republic. This piece, a brief three-movement composition, follows the first three chapters of the book.
The first movement (0:00-1:43) follows a brief romance on the banks of the Tiber at what would be the future site of Rome. The love theme, introduced on violin after a brief opening on horn and strings, develops into a broad and soaring duet between a violin and a horn. The melody falls when a jealous man kills the woman's lover the next day, but the music ends joyfully, as the line is continued.
Movement 2 (1:43-3:26) starts joyfully. On the site of future Rome is a small village, including the descendants of that ancient romance. However, the village is haunted by a beast named Cacus and the music becomes ominous, with the theme of Cacus played on harp in a dissonant manner. At the end of that half of this movement, a great roar occurs as the heroine of this chapter is chased by the beast, but is safe. Eventually, a hero (said to be Hercules) arrives and defeats Cacus in a violent harp-violins-trumpet struggle and the movement ends in another major ending out of the strife.
Movement three (3:26-4:21) starts gently, but with strength, as the village is now stronger. Then, a new theme comes in, in an entirely different key and with a chorus as well. Here the brothers Romulus and Remus are rising to power as what we would call warlords, and with a smashing finale, the founding of the city is completed. One should note that there is more to this tale, I simply decided to end the song here... so it would stand as more of a prelude to Rome more than anything else.
On the Instrumentation-
Instead of confining myself to instruments available at the time, I tried going back and forth between orchestral and a slightly more ethnic feel, using different scales (a sort of pentatonic was used in some parts) and instruments (harps and frame-drums were available at that time) to resemble the feel of that ancient time without eliminating the feel of a full orchestra (which only emerges in the last movement).
Created using the EWQL Symphonic Orchestra Gold and Finale 2009
Feel free to give any thoughts or feelings this piece gives you, or any critique you have. It's certainly not a perfect composition. Do understand that the use of dissonance is intentional.